Recent legal battles have brought into question the constitutionality of federal gun laws, raising concerns about the Second Amendment and individual rights. One high-profile case involves the son of President Joe Biden who is facing possession of an illegal firearm charge, and putting the President in a difficult position as he simultaneously advocates for stricter gun laws.
The Law in Question
The central law at the heart of these legal battles is 18 USC 922, which is primarily used to prevent convicted felons from owning firearms.
However, this code section also contains lesser-known provisions that prohibit gun possession for various reasons.
Hunter Biden, for example, faces charges under a provision that forbids individuals addicted to narcotics from owning firearms.
He is accused of providing false information about his addiction on a federal form and possessing a Colt Cobra 38SPL. If convicted on all counts, he could face up to 25 years in prison.
In the face of these charges, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, says, “We believe these charges are barred by the agreement the prosecutors made with Mr. Biden, the recent rulings by several federal courts that this statute is unconstitutional, and the facts that he did not violate that law, and we plan to demonstrate all of that in court.”
In a case in Oklahoma, a defendant faced charges similar to Hunter Biden’s.
However, a federal judge dismissed the case, deeming the law “unconstitutionally vague” and suggesting that authorities should have charged the defendant differently.
The ultimate resolution of these legal disputes may rest with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is set to soon hear arguments on another provision of the same statute.
A Unique Situation
This specific provision stops individuals under court restraining orders for domestic violence from possessing firearms and the Court found that the provision, “fails to pass constitutional muster.”
One unique aspect of these legal challenges is the involvement of the President’s son, Hunter Biden.
William Devaney, a former federal prosecutor now practicing at Baker McKenzie, says, “We could have the odd situation of the son of a president who is calling for stricter gun laws challenging these charges as violating his Second Amendment rights.”
However, William Devaney also commented on Hunter Biden’s case, “Like any criminal defendant, he’s going to use the laws and the arguments available to him, regardless of what his personal beliefs may or may not be.”
A New Decision
The uncertainty surrounding which gun laws will stand or fall stems from a 2022 Supreme Court decision known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
This decision overturned a long-standing New York law and set a legal standard for lower courts to say a gun law must align with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.
The government argues that restrictions on gun possession are a legitimate way to reduce violence.
The Biden administration has proposed rules to tighten regulations on firearm sales, particularly focusing on closing the “gun show loophole” and “Internet loophole.”
Ultimately, Biden’s proposals hope to increase background checks for gun buyers.
President Biden has also called for the revival of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, reflecting his commitment to gun control measures.
As the Supreme Court takes up these matters, there are several potential outcomes. The court may decide to uphold the statute, supporting its role in disarming individuals facing domestic violence restraining orders.
Alternatively, the court could provide guidance on which offenses warrant restrictions on gun possession and which do not.
However, even if certain restrictions are overturned, Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, thinks that Hunter Biden is still, “in trouble no matter what.”
Gottlieb thinks the court is unlikely to overturn a law prohibiting false statements on gun forms, as it would have broader implications beyond this specific case, stating, “I don’t see the court ever taking that away.”
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